What Can Blood Pressure Medicine Do To 5 Year Old Give Mozart a Break! How to Lower Blood Pressure With Music

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Give Mozart a Break! How to Lower Blood Pressure With Music

A small blood pressure study published just this month (September 2008) by Seattle University is getting a lot of attention. Research into the effects of music and relaxation should provide a stimulus for thought in a new and productive direction. Instead, the study is widely misrepresented and focuses on insignificant details with a damning-with-faint-praise approach.

In the study, 41 elderly people with high blood pressure listened to either Mozart or a “guided-relaxation” program for 12 minutes a day, three times a week for four months. Mozart’s music was not specified, but the relaxation CD included a background of sea waves along with a soothing voice and guided breathing exercises.

Average systolic blood pressure in the Mozart group dropped by 7 points, while the average reduction in the guided relaxation group was 9 points systolic. Diastolic blood pressure was not affected as much, but doctors tend to look at systolic pressure as a more important health factor.

Mozart versus “New Age”?

Many reports chose to focus on the band’s slightly larger reductions with controlled rest and paint Mozart as the “loser” as in some absurd battle of the bands. That completely misses the point. The research was not a competition to determine the “winning” style of relaxation – as if 2 points among such a small sample had any meaning anyway.

In fact, the study has a number of flaws, including:

  • Statistically insignificant number of participants (only 21 in the Mozart group and 20 in the guided relaxation group). The results of such a small group cannot be extrapolated to millions of hypertensive patients.
     
  • Seniors are not a representative sample of people suffering from high blood pressure (baby boomers are the largest group of hypertensives and its prevalence among young people is increasing rapidly).
     
  • Why was participation limited to just 12 minutes a day, three times a week? Based on previous research, the modest results of this study were entirely predictable. A second recent study in Italy found much better results in participants who listened to slow soothing music for half an hour a day.
     
  • Which pieces of Mozart’s music were used? Mozart’s music is a vast body of work, covering a whole range of moods and tempos, often in the same composition. Plus, a lot of it was never meant to be relaxing. This isn’t a muted point, as previous research has shown: fast-tempo music raises blood pressure, while slow-tempo music lowers it.

It is therefore difficult to evaluate this part of the study results without knowing the specific music used. It is more certain that all music, or most music that meets the right criteria, is able to significantly affect blood pressure.

Participants in the Italian study listened to Western classical, Celtic or Indian raga music and concluded that any style of music with a slow and soothing nature could be effective in lowering blood pressure.

It’s all in the breathing…

Finally, the above limitations pale in comparison to the main complaint: the guided relaxation group also participated in breathing exercises. This is one of, if not the main factor contributing to their results, and yet it has been reported as almost secondary. The study more accurately reflects the effects of relaxing music with breathing compared to those who only listen to Mozart.

There is a great deal of research, along with years of real-life practice, showing that what is now commonly called slow breathing is capable of significantly reducing high blood pressure. More importantly, the effects of slow breathing are cumulative and long-lasting, unlike relaxation itself, which is only temporary.

Double your pleasure: breathing with music

But if you really want to see results, you need to combine both: breathing and music. The biofeedback device, called Resperate, uses a synthesizer to generate musical tones that therapeutically guide the user’s breathing. They recommend using the device for at least 15 minutes a day, 3x or 4x a week, although results only improve with daily use.

There are many clinical studies documenting the effectiveness of slow breathing. These are double-blind, randomized trials—the same standard as drug testing—published in peer-reviewed medical journals.

In studies, the method achieved dramatic results with the top 10% achieving an average reduction of 36 points systolic and 20 points diastolic. Another impressive result is the 82% response rate in the group of “resistant hypertensives”, people who have not responded to other forms of treatment.

Perfect relaxation: slow breathing with music

A newer method called “slow breathing with music” is closer in spirit to the methods attempted by the Seattle study. This method uses the same clinically proven breathing methods as Resperate, but in a way that is almost the opposite: using synthesized controlled breathing combined with real music.

Those who use slow breathing with music say they find real music more relaxing and enjoyable, which increases their use and, they say, their results. There is no doubt how many people achieve remarkable results with this method. Slow breathing with music comes in two styles: a modern form of mood music called ambient and classical (including carefully selected Mozarts). Daily use of 15 minutes is recommended.

Both of these slow breathing methods, supported by a wealth of research associated with many thousands of successful users, show the most effective way to use music to lower blood pressure: namely, as a relaxation medium in which slow breathing is applied.

Salaries and attitudes…

The real significance of the Seattle study—within its limitations—is that both results are equally encouraging and deserve further attention. The study points the way to a promising, completely safe and natural alternative for lowering blood pressure, especially when considered along with many other sources.

Unfortunately, the way the study was described contributes to the exact opposite effect. Along with the usual platitudes crediting the method with a potential, albeit “small” role in the fight against hypertension, most reports agree that “no one should think that relaxing or listening to classical music can replace blood pressure medication.”

Actually this Yippee whole point: replace potentially dangerous blood pressure medications with safe and natural methods. And it’s not a vain goal. In his article “What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Blood Pressure” for Virginia Hopkins Health Watch, Dr. John Lee writes:

“The most important thing I want to tell you about high blood pressure is that it can almost always be reduced by lifestyle changes… But the conventional medical wisdom is that patients will not change their lifestyle, so the automatic response to high blood pressure the pressure is to prescribe a drug to reduce it. I believe, and there is a lot of research to support me, that these drugs have just as much chance of killing you as high blood pressure, especially if we don’t really need them.”

A bit of night music?

It seems that the attitude that leads doctors to prescribe unnecessary blood pressure drugs is the same one that always concludes studies of natural alternatives with the words “but it will never replace drugs”. Slow breathing—with or without music—has actually helped thousands of people avoid, reduce, or even eliminate blood pressure medication. And a little Mozart sure helps the medicine go down!

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